By Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The 2013-14 Southern Virginia University men's basketball team features a lot of new faces from the team that finished 17-7 and qualified for the USCAA national tournament last season, but with new beginnings come new opportunities as this year's team looks to continue the fine tradition of Southern Virginia basketball.
Hoping to make a big entrance as a new member of the Capital Athletic Conference, the team looks to build its own identity and exceed expectations within the confines of a new league and new territory.
Head coach Tony Caputo shares his outlook for this year's team:
The team will undoubtedly be led by its lone returning varsity player in Wesley Evans. What are your expectations from Wesley this season?
Caputo: I couldn't have a better leader or captain. I'm very fortunate in that area. I think he's as good as anyone that we've had in that role in all my 33 years of coaching.
What do you expect from the guard position?
Caputo: As our guards go, especially as Chris Baker, our point guard, goes, that's how our team is going to go. We have to hope that our guard play is really strong because we're a pretty guard-oriented team and we're really small. That position will be key for us.
Chris is the guy that can make the game easier for everyone else. Preston Eaton is the guy who needs to make the outside shot. Michael Price brings a lot of energy and solid defense. Those guys are important to us.
How will the forwards and centers contribute?
Caputo: Right now we're really relying on Wes. Our starting center, Ben Canevari, is key for us in the post. He's our only healthy big guy. Greg Turner and Ryan White have not been healthy yet to play big roles in the middle, so we'll need big things to happen from Ben.
Kenyatta Ruia and Corey Jones give us some depth in the post and the swing positions. We'll need some good rebounding from them and some good defense.
We have a lot of freshmen on the team. What do you expect from this group?
I think Michael Price is going to have a good year – he just plays so hard. He plays as hard as anyone I've coached here in awhile. We hope that Taylor Bahr comes along. He has the skill set and the body to do that.
What comes to mind when you think of our schedule and our first year in the Capital Athletic Conference?
We have to develop an identity before conference season begins. Our team only has one varsity guy back on the team so we don't yet have one. It needs to come quickly or we'll be in big trouble right off the bat in this league.
We'll learn as we go. We've already taken some lumps, but we learned a lot from last weekend and I think we'll see big improvements week to week.
St. Mary's is a Top 10 D-III school and is the class of the conference. Then there are three other teams who were in the Top 25 last year: Christopher Newport, Wesley and Salisbury. Mary Washington played for the league title last year and they have everyone back, so we have our work cut out for us. Many of the teams in conference are upperclassmen-oriented, so we'll also have to combat with that, as well.